Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Anna Myers' TUMBLEWEED BABY reviewed in School Library Journal

School Library Journal gives a warm review to TUMBLEWEED BABY (Abrams), by Anna Myers (her first picture book after 19 novels!), and illustrated by Charles Vess:

Anna Myers is available for school visits to K to YA. Contact Balkin Buddies for further information.

Monday, October 20, 2014

School Library Journal review of Neal Shusterman’s UNDIVIDED

You won’t want to miss the final book in Neal Shusterman’s Unwind Dystology series. School Library Journal concludes that UNDIVIDED (Simon and Schuster) is “a wonderful end to a unique and noteworthy series.” Here’s their October 2014 review:

Friday, October 17, 2014

A school email-interviews Dean Pitchford about his book, CAPTAIN NOBODY

A school recently did an email-interview with Dean Pitchford about CAPTAIN NOBODY  (Penguin/Putnam), among other things, and the questions and answers were so interesting, we asked Dean if we could share his responses with our followers. Here below is the interview. We hope you enjoy it.


DEAN: I really liked your students’ comments and would be happy to answer their very interesting questions.

SCHOOL: Where did you get the idea of the brother going into a coma from?

DEAN: I learned, when I was doing the book tour for my first novel, THE BIG ONE-OH, that my young readers had a tremendous capacity for understanding and coping with difficulties in their lives. And, when they get through those hard episodes, they emerge stronger and empowered.

I knew that I wanted to do something to Chris Newman to get him out of the house… so that Newt would have a chance to blossom as a personality. But it wasn’t dramatic enough to have him leave on a trip or go away to college. No!

Putting Chris into a very serious situation… and then studying how Newt deals with that… became important to me. And that’s how I came up with idea for Chris’s coma.

SCHOOL: Will there ever be a sequel to CAPTAIN NOBODY?

DEAN: I haven’t been asked by my publishers to create a sequel to CAPTAIN NOBODY using the same characters. However….!!

I actually began with my first book to create a sort of series that can be read in order. Here’s how:

THE BIG ONE-OH is about a 9-year-old boy and takes place in the month leading up to his 10th birthday.

CAPTAIN NOBODY (as you know) is about 10-year-old Newt Newman and takes place before and after Halloween.

NICKEL BAY NICK is about an 11-year-old boy; it starts on the evening of Christmas Day and takes place over the next twelve days (The Twelve Days of Christmas!)

The characters in my books are meant to grow up… just as my readers do. Nine, ten, eleven years old… celebrating a birthday, Halloween, and Christmas… the three books all follow that pattern.

SCHOOL: What made you become an author?

DEAN: I’ve been writing my whole life. When I was the age of your students, I scribbled stuff on scraps of paper. I started keeping my thoughts and observations in notebooks when I got to high school. I wrote poetry throughout college… which is how I started writing lyrics for songs when I got to New York City. And that lead to my screenwriting, my writing for Broadway, and now… writing novels. So I can’t really pinpoint a moment when I chose to be an author. It sort of chose me. It’s the way I found to make sense of my life, the world around me, and my place in it.

SCHOOL: Is there any chance that Newt’s memory of Darryl Peeps actually hitting Chris was wrong?

DEAN: What a terrific question!!! I wondered when someone would think to ask me this! After all, Newt’s memory comes back to him in a dream… and we all know how unreliable dreams can be.

Of course there’s a chance that Newt mis-remembered the Big Tackle, but this explanation – that it was Darryl Peeps – is as good as any. PLUS it takes the heat off Reggie Ratner, who becomes so depressed about what people THINK is his part in Chris Newman’s injury.

SCHOOL: Were many of the feelings Newt had like feelings that you had?

DEAN: Well, none of the specific incidents ever happened to me (I never climbed a water tower or chased a ferret onto a freeway, for instance), but I experienced – as lots of young people do – what it felt like to be overlooked and ignored. I went to a high school (in Honolulu) that was known for its football team. Because I wasn’t athletic – and everyone around me was – I was pretty invisible in the halls of that school!

And, like Newt, I’m afraid of heights. Not terrified, but afraid. I can climb a tall ladder, for instance, but if I’m in an apartment on a high floor and I’m invited to walk out onto the balcony, I won’t go!!

Thanks again for your and your students’ enthusiastic responses to my work.

Dean Pitchford is available for school visits or Skype chats. If you're interested in booking him, just contact Balkin Buddies.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Marilyn Singer's poetry interview on DIY MFA Radio

Marilyn Singer recently did a recorded poetry interview on diyMFA Radio.

In it, Marilyn discusses her background as a poet, gives an overview of what reverso poetry is, explaining how it differs from other forms of poetry, and talks about how she developed it. You'll also get an inside look at how she wrote MIRROR, MIRROR, the first book of reversos.

For new writers, she offers advice on writing poetry and explores what prose writers gain from studying poetry.

We hope you enjoy listening to it.

Monday, October 13, 2014


THAT TIME I JOINED THE CIRCUS (Point/Scholastic) is J.J.Howard's first young adult novel. According to the KIRKUS review, "Debut author Howard effectively depicts an attractive heroine with a notably sarcastic but nonetheless charming attitude... For any reader who has ever felt like running away to join the circus."

Here's a quick synopsis: A music-obsessed, slightly snarky New York City girl trying to track down her long-absent mother finds herself reading tarot cards and making predictions in a traveling circus in Florida. J.J. Howard's fresh voice reminds readers of the magic of circus tents, city lights, first kisses, last heartaches, and the importance of an excellent playlist.

The author will be available to do the school visit one day in February, preferably the week of February 9-13, 2015, but if another date in February works best for the winner, that can be arranged.

To enter the raffle, just send your name, contact information, and the name of your school to Balkin Buddies  or New Leaf/Balkin Buddies.The winning school will be announced in November.

Good luck!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Wendell Minor's SEQUOIA praised in Booklist

Jake Halpern, the author of the YA series, DORMIA, becomes a debt collector to do research for his new adult nonfiction title, BAD PAPER

The author of the young adult fantasy series about DORMIA, Jake Halpern is also the author of the new nonfiction book for adults, BAD PAPER (FSG), which tells the true story of a banker and an armed robber who go into business together and embark on an adventure that takes them deep into the financial underworld.

On October 9, 2014, Jake was on the NPR radio program, Fresh Air, and you can hear it today on this postcast. Also, to do research for the book, the author spent time as a debt collector at a small agency in Maine, and you can read about his experiences there in the Op-Ed of the NEW YORK TIMES.